How much genome sequence will $10K get you?

Snip from interview at MIT Tech Review (TR) with George Church (GC):

GC: We might never get a
perfect $1,000 diploid genome [the six billion base pairs in a human's
two sets of chromosomes]. The question is, what can we afford and what
do we get for it? Think back to the beginning of the computer industry.
They didn’t say, "Oh, we’re going to get you a $1,000 supercomputer."
No, they said, "What can people afford? And what can we give them for
it?" And what they gave us was the likes of the Apple II computer, and
people started writing software for it. Current personal computers cost
about the same but deliver more. The same thing may happen with
personal genomes.

TR: So what are people likely to spend to know their own genome?

I think what is affordable — and remember, this is a lifetime expense;
your personal genome will hopefully last you 80 years or more — is
$10,000. If I can save $100 on average a year, it is a no-brainer.
That’s the cost of a couple days of missed work, or one diagnostic test
that can be put off due to low risk, or avoiding bad choices on a
year’s worth of drugs. Then the question is, how much of a person’s
genome can we sequence for $10,000? Seven thousand dollars will buy you
a million base pairs of DNA [using conventional technology], which is
one-6,000th of your diploid genome. Not very much.

sequencing [a method developed by Church and colleagues] is about a
hundred times less expensive. So you can sequence about 1 percent of
the genome [for $10,000]. That’s not bad. You could focus on likely
places you’re going to have problems.We got a factor-of-ten improvement
in the last six months, so if we could get another 10 percent
improvement in the next year, that would give us 10 percent of the
genome. If we could pick 10 percent of the genome for which we have
lifestyle, nutritional, or synthetic solutions, that would be a good
deliverable for a $10,000 investment. And it will just get better from

Read the whole piece.

David Rotman, Rewriting the Genome. MIT Tech Review, May/June 2006.

David Schwartz: $100 genomes in 3 years?

There are bulls and bears in the world of personal genome sequencing.  Some say affordable genome sequencing is decades away, while others say its just around the corner.  David Schwartz at University of Wiscon is clearly a bull among bulls:

David Schwartz, a professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, will describe the research at the Human Genome meeting in
Helsinki tomorrow. Within three years, he believes his lab will have a
test capable of reading an entire genome within an hour for less than

Ian Sample. New test offers speedy reading of genetic makeup. The Guardian. Friday June 2, 2006.

David C. Schwartz profile at University of Wisconsin, Madison

Genes and Drugs Website

After a much needed break, I’m now back to blogging.  As if keeping up one blog (err…plus 3 private bIogs and 2 wikis), I’ve also joined the ranks of another blog over at DNA Direct Talk where I’ll chime-in from time to time on business and technology issues in genetics. 

My absence from blogging for the past 3 months is in part due to my involvement in the launch of a new pharmacogenetics service at DNA Direct, called Genes & Drugs.  Check it out and let me know what you think:


For now, the site is an information resource on pharmacogenetics and drug metabolism.  In addition to expanding the content, we will soon be offering testing services too.  More to come on this…

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: Ryan Phelan

The CEO of DNA Direct (full discolure…and my boss/friend/mentor) recently gave a talk at Stanford as part of the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders (ETL) seminar series. In her presentation, she tells the story of her life as an entrepreneur and her experiences with founding and operating a number of ventures, most of them in the consumer health arena. Among them were Planetree & Direct Medical Knowledge (later acquired by WebMD). Check it out:


Video, Audio Podcast MP3, and also available via iTunes (search ETL or Ryan Phelan)

I highly recommend checking out the whole series of speakers and the archive.